365 Days of Blogging: Personal Writing Challenge ACCEPTED

I woke up late on New Year’s Day and thought about this blog and about being a writer and all of the things that that means. I want writing to be a daily habit (it nearly is). Why not challenge myself to write a blog post a day for the next 365 days? Make 2015 my Year of Blogging Dangerously? accepted2

I debated keeping it to myself, but if I post it, maybe that will keep me honest. :D

So there you go, Internet. I am unleashing my inner authorly Kraken.

Brace yourselves! IMG_4589 IMG_4766 IMG_4904

LOTR Fan Fiction (just for fun)

She welcomes me in with a warm smile and gestures to a well-preserved chaise longue that I’m sure I’ve seen in an antiques magazine. While I sit, breathing deeply to appreciate the fragrance of hot-house flowers crowding the bay window nearby, she carries a silver tea tray to the oval serving table between my place and the egg-shaped rattan swing she has lined with colourful patchwork pillows. Her waist-length dark hair cascades over her shoulder, rippling as finely as a waterfall, as she gracefully pours the steaming Earl Grey into the delicate bone china cups on the tray.
Everything in the sitting room flows. As she settles into her swing with a contented sigh, my eyes roam over the sheer drapery flung casually over unpeeled slim tree branches, the trailing vines of hanging plants and strings of crystalline beads spinning gently in the cool breeze of the open windows. Her walls are crowded: there is a chair rail visible, but only where the bookshelves end, and above their stacked and dusty tomes there are portraits from many eras, some behind glass and framed in gilt, and I wonder if they are originals. At intervals, there are bronze and pewter sconces with marks of soot and melted candles — I don’t know how on earth she trusts that the drywall won’t just burst into flame when she lights them. It’s a luxury I’d enjoy in my own home, but I know my husband would be too anxious to let me try.

To my amazement, I hear chirping, and I realize that there are canaries and yellow finches perched on the picture frames; I watch a bluejay flit down to help itself to a crumb from the plate of scones, and I wonder how it was I didn’t see them before. 

“They rather blend in with the wallpaper, don’t they?” she smiles over her cup. “And they are quiet when someone new comes in. Shy little things.”

I want to ask how they avoid pooping on everything, or what she does if they do, but it feels like that would be so . . . wrong.

“So, I understand that you are a researcher?”

I nod, and for lack of anything better to say, I nod again. “Geneological. I’m just interested in my family’s roots. It’s really for a historical essay due in a few months for my professor.”

“I’m hopeful that I can be of a help to you, then.” 

“The curator at the museum said you might be,” I tell her. I open my messenger bag to take out my notes. “He said you have some books of old records, births and deaths and weddings. I take it that you’re a collector of antiquities.” I wave lamely at the eccentric and opulent room.

“Something like that,” she chuckles. Her brown eyes crinkle when she smiles at me. 

I’m taken aback by how beautiful she is. No, not just beautiful — elegant. I should have showered three times before even stepping foot into her home. It’s hard to get the words out, I feel so intimidated. I’m not used to anyone ever telling me I’m pretty, much less beautiful, and she must get it all the time. What must that be like? 

When I see her eyes move to the sheaf of papers in my hand, I shake off my nervousness, or try to. “Well, um, I’m tracing the path of my mother’s mother’s people. My great-great-grandfather was an orphan, so it’s difficult to find any evidence of his origins, so I was hoping to follow his wife first and find clues along the way.”

The lady leans forward, her eyes glittering as merrily as the beads wound around her slender wrists. “May I see?”

I don’t even hesitate to pass her my research. 

We spend the next hour and a half poring over my notes, she asking questions and I answering as best I can. Once, she pauses to put her hair back into a French knot, spearing it neatly with a sharpened pencil. I’ve never been able to do that, much less leave the charming sweeps over the tips of the ears. Mine have always been slightly pointy, earning me taunts of being Spock’s daughter when I was in high school, so I generally try to keep them hidden until I can afford surgery to make them look more . . . normal.

“Well, there are some books in my library that we may find helpful,” she tells me at last. Rising easily, she crooks her finger at me and I follow her to the bookshelf nearest the door. She kneels there, her long sleeveless wrap pooling around her ankles, and I copy her with far less grace. For the first time, I start to wonder how old she is. The tomes she is running her long fingers over — I’ve seen leather bindings like that before, but only locked behind temperature-controlled doors in museums and monsteries. She doesn’t live in a mansion, so I can’t judge her net worth, but how did someone so young come by such priceless treasures? 

But the way she moves isn’t the confident gait of an energetic 30 year old, or even the measured pace of a woman in her 40s. Neither does she creak or groan at the bending of her joints. She almost appears . . . ageless. But for the streaks of silver in her hair, the slight lines around her mouth and eyes, I might not even be able to guess older than 25.

“Here,” she says with not a little satisfaction, handing me a long rectangular folio. Its pages rustle; the contents are printed on paper, but also on parchment and vellum. “From the names you’ve given me, I think that this will help.”

I open the cover right then and there, pausing only to get up and retrieve the cotton gloves I’ve taken to carrying with me on research outings. She’s right — there are whole families registered in this volume. There are pages (I find myself hoping at first that they’re copies and not ripped out of the original books) from passenger manifests and church records, agreements for land purchases and legal documents concerning leases. I run out of ink in one pen and she hands me another. Eventually, I realize that I’m squinting because the light is fading, and she begins to walk the room with a long taper, lighting her candles. 

“I’m so sorry,” I start, arching my back and massaging my tailbone. “I’ve wasted your afternoon, and it’s well into evening now.”

“That’s all right,” she murmurs. She glances at me. “I enjoy the company. It’s not often that I am able to host someone so inquisitive, polite, and pleasant.”

“Me?” I’m incredulous. “Honestly, I’m — well, I haven’t said much about anything other than the work. I’m pretty shy, in real life.”

“Why would you say that?” She blinks at me. “About ‘real life’?”

“Because all of this just feels so — surreal.” I get up, shakily because my legs are all pins and needles, and show her the timelines and branches I’ve jotted down. “Everything I needed to know is here. I don’t have to go anywhere else. It’s like finding a pot of gold, and I’m stunned. But even though all my questions were answered (and thank you so much for that!), now I’ve got even more.”

“Such as?”

“Well, here . . .” I point at where the originating branches unite. “There’s a woman who is referenced over and over in family lore as being the game-changer. There are legends written down in diaries and letters about her, stories passed down from mother to daughter or father to son, how nobody knew where she came from or why. Just that my ancestor was smitten with her and it all went from there.”

“Smitten.” She laughs softly, her hand over her heart. “Such a funny term for love.”

“Well, the really funny part is that while the rest of the family’s pretty thoroughly documented, as you can see here, her birth and death records are missing. It wouldn’t be unusual, except that it’s the only gap.” I hold up the evidence, both in the primary sources and in my own notes. “See, even her husband’s family’s documentation goes further back, almost to the Dark Ages. But of this Arwen? There’s nothing. Not even a maiden name. And she came to the marriage with a son, but there’s no record of his birth either.”

“Ah, but her maiden name was real.” She puts the taper down and steps toward me, looking at me intently. “And you know about her child?”

I’m taken aback. “Well, yes. I’ve tried to be thorough. After all, he’s really the start of my bloodline — or, through him, she was.”

“I apologize. This was my error. I thought you were researching the second son, the first child of their marriage.” She’s twisting a ring on her finger, now, and pacing the room. “Like the others who have come before.”

“I’m sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear.” I kneel down to tidy up, gathering my things. “If I’ve made you uncomfortable –”

“No, dear, I’m not uncomfortable.” She slips down beside me, taking my hand. Her eyes are huge and her full lips are trembling. “I just wasn’t expecting you today.”

“But who are you?” I’m suddenly frightened.

“Don’t be afraid, Granddaughter,” she whispers. “The name I gave you before was a lie. I am Arwen, daughter of Elrond. And I have been waiting for you.”

Bedtime Mosquito Battle — the war continues

*DISCLAIMER / WARNING: This post gets a little graphic, mainly as an expression of my complete and utter hatred for blood-sucking insects. I’m venting about mosquitoes. Read no further if you don’t want to know.

I refuse to admit defeat.

It’s mainly because my daughter vocally protests against her nightly visitors and pleads to sleep on the couch, even though I’ve explained that the damned things won’t randomly decide to leave her alone if she changes rooms. Her room does not belong to the mosquitoes!

But it is a fairly regular frustration. So I’ve decided to outline a basic set of the rules I have developed in the nightly battle against the whiney little scourge.

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How to Kill a Mosquito (esp. at bedtime)

RULE No. 1:No fly swatters. There’s no use swatting at a mosquito. They’re too small and ephemeral, almost fairy-like in their deceptive daintiness, to be caught up by a mere fly swatter.

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No, you have to CRUSH THEM UNDER YOUR PALM AT FULL STRENGTH UNTIL YOU FEEL THEIR MICROSCOPIC BODIES CRUMPLE AND BURST UNDER YOUR SKIN.

RULE No. 2: Move slowly. Very often, the slight structure of the mosquito allows it to glide on the drafts of air you make when you’re trying to SMASH IT AGAINST THE WALL WITH THE HEEL OF YOUR HAND TO SMOOSH IT INTO A PANCAKE.

So you end up waving helplessly at a damned near invisible thing, and if you’re visible to someone who doesn’t know the score, looking kind of stupid.

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And then you lose track of it as it wisps away into the shadows, mocking you before it returns to dive-bombing your ears with its shrill, incoherent battle-cry.

WHY DO THEY ALWAYS GO FOR THE EARS???

Move slowly. Keep your eye on the target.

RULE No. 3: Become one with the mosquito. Yes, you heard me. You read that correctly. Understand the mosquito’s wants and needs. It wants blood. It wants to pierce your sweet, sweet flesh and pull draughts of your tasty, hot plasma into its gullet to nurture its demon seeds. (Demon’s seeds? Daemon seeds?)

So use that understanding. Call to the mosquito and let it scent your breath — they are attracted to our exhaled breath, after all. Hold out your palm and invite it to land and feast upon you. Be the bait, with all of the patience of the zen master.

And then . . . when it appears, tantalizingly within reach, wait. Remember that even the fastest strike can be foiled by the air currents between the fingers, giving the fucking bastard an escape route right through your digits when you least expect it.

No. Be calm. Only strike when you can see its shadow perfectly within your palm.

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RULE No. 4: Kill it until it is DEAD. Obvious, of course. But what you MAY NOT REALIZE is that the mosquito is resilient and bendy. It compresses into the crevices of your hand, flattening against the pills of a blanket, using the minuscule gaps between the weave of cloth to save itself from the untimely end it so richly deserves. There is little worse than believing you have triumphed by snatching the little prick in mid-air and putting paid to it between your fingers and the heel of your hand, only to have it tra-la-la away when you open your hand again.

I swear, you can hear them laughing at times like that.

So when you KNOW it’s in your grasp, and you can feel its little wings grinding, forget the grossness and don’t be squeamish. Do what must be done. TEAR IT TO PIECES. MANGLE ITS BEADY LITTLE CORPSE, RENDING IT LIMB FROM LIMB AND SHOVING THAT PROBOSCIS WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE WHILE IT’S BLINDED BY SHARPENED FRAGMENTS OF ITS OWN WINGS.

RULE No. 5: Wash your hands. It’s basic hygiene, especially if you’ve killed one right after a fresh feed and the evidence of the bloodbath is all over your opposable thumb and what it’s attached to. Bloody fingerprints are unsightly on the walls, so better wash those too. In fact, just jet-wash the whole damned place, sprinkle it with salt and fresh herbs or holy water or whatever jingles your jangle, and declare the house cleared of the vermin scum.

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And remember to plug any holes to the outside where the little jerks might be getting in. That helps, too.

Victory dances are allowed, as are triumphant sharings of the proof of the deed with family and friends. Bragging rights are permitted, of course. It’s important to keep up morale when you’re under siege.

Aaand that’s about it! Except that you’ll likely have to repeat the whole sequence every time you or your child or your significant other is irritated by those tiny assholes. So load up on whatever is going to keep you awake until the job is done.

Speaking of . . . my daughter hasn’t come downstairs to complain that there is a mosquito in her room for a good hour, now, and my son announced about 20 minutes ago that he’d killed one in his room. Dare I hope that we’re good for the night?

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I’m not beating the heat — I’m joining it

Ah, the insistent song of the runaway cricket . . . As I sit here soaked in sheets of sweat, a little cranky because even my fingers are sticky but extremely thankful that I’m not bundled in layers of sweaters and fingerless mittens and thick socks and slippers as I do when it’s -40 outside — no, actually, that’s it. That’s all that’s on my mind.

My house is not air conditioned, but for my daughter’s bedroom on the second floor, and we still haven’t put screens on the damned windows where they’re needed, or put in the screen door that we acquired last year. So however lovely the cool night air might be, it’s not hitting me right now. And the minute I step outside, I become a moveable feast for the f*@king mosquitoes. Makes campfires and nighttime outdoor rituals a bit of a nightmare. Sometimes I try to bear it, but then I’m like, nope.

But even though I’m dripping and the air feels thick, I’m actually loving this. Like I said, it’s not -40! I’m not layered up to my ears (and occasionally, my eyeballs!)! I feel like I am part lizard, basking in the glory of the heat.

Because as all things are, this is temporary. It’s a summer heat wave, and we have it relatively easy in northeastern Ontario — I know it’s bordering on hellish in so many other parts of the world, that others are suffering water shortages and I’m in a place with plentiful fresh H2O. And I’m not dealing with a baby with heat rash or trying to nurse while I’m sweaty (been there, done that). No major health problems. I am grateful.

And I was productive today! Yesterday I will admit to indulging in an afternoon Netflix binge, but today I cleaned out my fridge (thought I’d missed garbage pickup but happily, I didn’t!), caught up on dishes, got the teenager to mow the lawn (in stages, so he wouldn’t get heat stroke), and ran an errand. Trimmed my dog’s nails, too. Plus, my daughter tried her bike again, of her own volition, and actually got the hang of it a few times!

Still, there’s always that slightly nagging feeling lurking about my shoulders that I haven’t done enough. I haven’t tackled the living room / dining area yet, or finished moving crap to the tent. I have yet to sort and distribute the laundry. There are number of small one-time-only tasks I have yet to complete, like writing up a synopsis (or finding the original) for Wind and Shadow to complete a contest entry, posting an autograph of Paul Wesley I got at ComicCon on Ebay, and doing a tally of my current stock of trilogy books so I know how many to order of Book 3, and then putting that order in. The couch cushions need repairing (next time I buy a new couch, I’m totally investing in a decent protective cover against child spills and animal barf) and the covers put back on, the kitchen cupboards need wiping out and purging, the bathroom cupboards need organizing, and so on. Plus I need to research my next writing project — the creepy dollhouse is taking on a life of its own! — and polish the snowmobiling story for submitting (and decide whether to use my current nom de plume or use my legal name or come up with a different pseudonym) . . . And there’s setting up a new order of business cards and swag materials to market Crystal and Wand, and oh yeah, that’s needing a release party still . . .

When you’re this sweaty, though, and the air is thick as soup, maybe there isn’t much else to do than what’s absolutely necessary. There’s a reason why people in the extremely warm countries slow down for siestas in the hottest parts of the day. As much as I enjoy basking, trying to be productive in this is simply maddening.

Hope you are handling your part of heat wave well, my friends. Keep cool, stay hydrated, take care of yourself and the vulnerable segments of the population. We’re all in this together.

Randomness!

Inappropriate game for road trips: Roadkill Bingo!

. . . am seriously considering making one for the next long drive. So . . . Patent Pending, right?

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Got my hard drive back at last! My files, oh, my files . . . how I missed you! Sadly, I cannot access the photos stashed inside, but my desktop probably wouldn’t be able to handle the load anyway. I’ll be able to get to them again, right? RIGHT?

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I live in a house of a thousand corpses. Mosquito corpses. Stuck to the walls and ceiling.

I know. It’s gross.

However . . . TROPHIES OF MY VICTORIES AGAINST THE PESTILENTIAL INVASION!

I should make little tiny plaques documenting the date and time of each kill.


A watched pot never boils. A watched 9 year old never washes her plate. But you go and take a shower and suddenly she’s doing it . . . WHILE YOU ARE SHOWERING.


Two weeks ago I was looking for socks and bundling up in a sweater. Today my region had a heat warning and I went out in a sundress with sunscreen and a sunhat and I still got a bit burnt. #wtf but also #lovingit


The 9 year old started researching hotel prices and flight costs to Paris, France, for her future trip when she is 18, and recording them in a chart. This is the child who hates math. WHAT IS HAPPENING?


The teenager did a sink full of dishes this morning without complaining, in lieu of mowing the lawn because he was running out of time to do a chore before going to a friend’s house. I repeat: WHAT IS HAPPENING?


Oh. The Road Kill Bingo is already a thing. But we need a CANADIAN version, right? With porcupine, moose, goose, doughnut, Tim Horton’s cup . . .

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AND THAT’S RANDOMNESS!

5th Anniversary of Blogging!

Happy Anniversary

First, thank you so much to the 150 individuals who are now following me on Romance and Other Dangers — I sincerely appreciate that you’re here. Hope to keep things fresh and interesting for you as my 365 Days of Blogging project continues!

And — WOW — 150 followers?! (happy dance)

And second, I have discovered the active links for Crystal and Wand: Book 3 of the Talbot Trilogy! It’s always so exciting to see one’s work out there in the world . . .

Here’s what the latest paranormal romance / urban fantasy is about. Be warned! It’s gritty, sexy, poignant, and highly satisfying:

Lovers reunite, and are torn apart. Bloodthirsty fiends battle for control of an army of the undead. With the community of Talbot frozen under layers of ice and snow, the domination of the vampire coven seems certain, but in the eye of the storm, the witches and the vampire hunters search desperately for the means to bring an end to the violence that threatens to take over more than one small, sleepy town. Will Rayvin and Charlotte be able to work together, combining their skills in magick, to prevent the loss of more innocent lives?

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While the novel isn’t yet available for Kobo (Chapters-Indigo), the first two books and prequel novella most definitely are:

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/mist-and-midnight

Wind and Shadow (Talbot Series #1)

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/blood-and-fire-10

And the series is available for Nook (Barnes and Noble):

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/crystal-and-wand-tori-l-ridgewood/1122295880?ean=2940152028843

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-and-fire-tori-l-ridgewood/1118482049?ean=9781612358109

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-and-shadow-tori-l-ridgewood/1116138235?ean=9781612356396

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mist-and-midnight-tori-l-ridgewood/1118892948?ean=2940149783748

Plus, of course, you can find the books on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Crystal-Wand-Talbot-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B011KCDLZW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1437965485&sr=8-2&keywords=tori+l+ridgewood

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Fire-Talbot-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00IDNJ7U0/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1437965485&sr=8-5&keywords=tori+l+ridgewood

http://www.amazon.com/Wind-Shadow-Talbot-Trilogy-Book/dp/1612356397/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1437965485&sr=8-4&keywords=tori+l+ridgewood

http://www.amazon.com/Mist-Midnight-Talbot-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00HQA3MKC/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1437965485&sr=8-6&keywords=tori+l+ridgewood

And at Melange Books:

http://melange-books.com/authors/torilridgewood/crystalwand.html

Still working on a release party, but feeling rather gobsmacked today after all of the travel this past week. Definitely missing the lake, but starting to feel more in the swing of things again. Slowly.

So thank you again to everyone who has stepped onto the Tori Train (so to speak) — I hope that you will continue to enjoy my rants, reflections, poems, and essays!

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Home again — a poem

The last legs of the journey

Back on the roads that I know

Wheels turning on familiar ground

Eating the distance

Skimming past the exposed muscles of the earth

Green sinews and brown courses gleaming in the sun

Jockeying for position on the ribbon of pavement

*

Two hours at home and it feels like a dream

Did all of it happen?

Reality is harsh and unyielding

Memory deceives

But the souvenirs and pictures are proof

The photos show that it was so

And now over

Life resumes

Steady pattern

Predictable and slow.

*

But I am fresh.

I am tired and I am renewed.

The things I feared might be impossible

Are achievable. Waiting.

I had momentum on the road.

I have momentum with me still.

The journey home…

On the road shortly after 6 am this morning — I have completed another 14 hours of driving. My eyes are rebelling. My driving foot (heel and ankle) is stiff and sore, and just a little bit numb. Not home yet, either, but nearly there and bunking down in a nice motel to avoid an unfortunate encounter with a moose or a deer or a bear.

All entirely worthwhile. 

After a nice breakfast with a new friend (hugs, Chris!), I set out for the border and made it in good time. Bought wine and soaps for my parents and lotions for me at the Duty-Free, and then headed for Montreal.

   
 
  
I had time to go sandal-shopping at a gorgeous mall (got some clothes, too), and had lunch in a little park . . .

   
 
And then headed for the Cosmodome to pick up my son. I think he grew while he was there — and not just in his interest and experience!

   
    
    
  
And Then . . . He and I went to explore the Old Port of Montreal! Just for an hour, but very fun.

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And then we left the crazy highways of Montreal behind . . . From 6 to 10 we headed north. Another four hours tomorrow and we will be home. 

A good day to begin the end of a wonderful week.